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    Hello, and welcome to my website! I'm Derek Gale, photography trainer and Fine Art photographer.

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A “design for living”? Perhaps more for working?

I was in Manchester recently and had to drive into the heart of the city.  The one-way system seems designed to keep cars out, rather than helping traffic circulation but I got there in the end.  The (very nice) hotel I was in had windows that opened fully, which gave me a chance to continue my occasional series “view from my hotel bedroom window”.

The one-way system has had lots of changes recently and not all car sat-navs have up-to-date info.  This arrow, which has been turned through 180 degrees, is a good indicator of that.  I loved the symmetry of the elements and the little bit of newer yellow paint where a service trench had been cut and covered.  The empty parking space was astonishing!

In the glass-fronted office building opposite my room there were many stories to be seen about humanising the workspace.  There were potted plants and personal photos were placed on desks.  I preferred the unseen and accidental landscape found behind things.  This red tape was stuck on the back of a large cupboard pushed up against a window.  Isolating it has allowed the reflection of my hotel to become more visible.

Looking up, the large monolith of the 14-storey office building opposite was quite impressive.  Described as one of Manchester’s, “most prestigious office buildings”, it’s a vertical factory for making money, with workers in little cubicles.  Shooting upwards, and then correcting the converging verticals in Photoshop, made a regular pattern that has subtle differences in each rectangle.  If you got all the staff to co-operate you could make words or pictures with the blinds.  There’s a project for someone!

The modern world contains so much in the way of accidental graphic design.  It’s always worth getting higher so you can look down as well as up.

The light in the garden is bokehlicious!

I’m lucky enough to live in a house that has a south-facing garden.  That means that at this time of year the low angle of the sun compared to the summer brings fresh photographic perspectives.  An early season frost that’s lit by the sun soon melts into a myriad of little backlit water droplets.  A great time to break out the long focal length or wide-aperture lens and try for some bokeh circles.  The first lens I used was my Panasonic 100-300mm.  It’s the equivalent of a 600mm lens on full-frame.

Having a 4/3rds sensor it’s harder to get good bokeh than with a full-frame camera, but with the right technique it’s pretty good.  For this image, of water droplets on a weeping silver birch tree, I used the lens at its maximum focal length to get the most magnification, and of course, at its widest aperture to give round highlight circles.  The lens was focused at infinity.

The nature of the subject changes the overall feel of the image.  This is melted frost on a buddleia shrub, which explains the strong green colour.  There are just a few orange shapes to give a bit of colour contrast.  It’s like a crowd of Venn diagrams!

I swapped lenses for this final shot.  I used my Sigma 30mm f1.4 lens and got a backlit single water droplet on a branch very close to the front of the lens.  The background was a hedge in shadow.  The aperture was set to f1.4 and the bokeh circle is therefore very big.  There’s all manner of stuff going on in the highlight.  It’s like an astronomical image of a planet or moon rather than a drop of water.

Low angled light in the garden on a frosty, sunny morning = time for some delicious bokeh.

Blue is not the warmest colour…

…even though a 2013 film title would have you think otherwise.

We perceive colours towards the red end of the spectrum as being warmer than those at the blue end of the spectrum.  This is a bit of a paradox as the redder the light the cooler the actual temperature.   Objects at very high temperature radiate light at the blue end of the spectrum.  It’s the infrared that makes us feel warm, and perhaps we perceive the blue colours as relating to the cold of such things as snow and ice.  However it works, we associate red tones with warmth.

There are lots of warm tones in this image.  The low angle of the autumn light has given a long shadow, with the red of the cranberry juice adding to the browns of the table’s wood.  The only cooler colour is the ceramic coaster under the glass, and even that is not very cool.

There is some cooler blue in the sky here of course, but the majority of the image has the warm tones of a sunset.  The sun’s low angle has given great backlighting to the seed heads of the Old Man’s Beard (a wild clematis) in the hedgerow.  The camera has coped surprisingly well with the challenges of shooting into the sun.

In this last image I have moved away from the reddest colours, but it’s still a warm-toned image.  There’s a patch of blue towards the centre that gives a bit of colour contrast.  It’s an example of camera movement during exposure.  I used the “Silky Water” mode on my camera and pressed the shutter button whilst I was walking along an alley in Bristol on a rainy night.

All images were taken on a Huawei Mate 10 Pro mobile phone.  I call it my camera that also makes phone calls.

I’ve really mist you!

It’s autumn, and we have entered, to quote Keats, the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”.  Mist and haze are great things for landscape photography as they can add mood and depth to your images.  Perfect visibility is wonderful, but it can leave your images a bit flat.

This image of Langdale in the UK’s Lake District is a good example.  The haze and cloud separate the image into different areas with different densities.  There is much better separation of the “recession planes” as they are known.

Mist can also simplify your images.  The tree is silhouetted more strongly against the sky and distant landscape because of the mist.  If the background landscape had the same shade of grey the foreground tree would be lost somewhat.

Mist really adds even more space to this image than in the first one.  It separates the ranges of hills from each other.  I had to use a telephoto lens to get the composition I wanted, and without the mist the resulting perspective compression would have made the hills all blend into each other.

Mist is your friend.

He was a fungi…

Last week I was in the Lake District.  If you are expecting a blog post with lots of large sweeping mountain landscapes then you’ll be disappointed.  Instead here are some small-scale landscapes; the landscapes of fungi, taken using my new Olympus macro lens. Autumn is a great time for fungi as the cool damp conditions are perfect for their growth. The Lake District certainly does damp very well.  The water for those lakes has to come from somewhere!

I visited Brantwood, the Victorian art critic John Ruskin’s house near Coniston, and in the garden there were lot of fungi.  There’s a simple rule with fungi – if you don’t KNOW what it is then don’t touch it or eat it.  Eating some fungi can kill you.

I’m not very good with fungi identification, but I think that these are fly agarics.   I was taken with their bright colour and the way that one has punched a hole through the edge of the other.  The gloomy lighting conditions under the tree canopy were challenging as I had no tripod with me, so the depth of field is limited.

One way round the depth of field issue is to get the subject parallel to the plane of the sensor.  I moved to shoot from above.  It’s now a pattern picture and a bit ambiguous as you can’t see the stalks.  I did wonder why only one mushroom cup had water in it?

Finally I dropped a bit lower and viewed them from below.  The strong red colour is no longer visible, but the gills are lovely.  Being lower gave me the chance to support the camera a bit more and use a smaller aperture.  The angle of the lower cup is now clearly visible, showing why the water drained away.

Now it’s autumn why not get out and have some fungi fun?